About Batik

The International Year of Batik

The International Year of Batik | 2024-25

Sponsored by the Batik Guild, the “International Year of Batik 2024-25” is an ambitious project aimed at furthering the goals of the Guild. It will be a year of concentrated effort to both publicise the Art of Batik globally and to bring it to the world’s attention as well as legitimising it as a difficult and valid art medium.  

To that end, we have built an International Year of Batik website, a Batik Secretariat, to collect, collate and publicise all the Batik shows, exhibitions and workshops that will be held across the world in that year. It will feature the work of as many batik artists as possible and will be a forum for debate and discussion, It will post articles and videos about the art and its techniques and will publicise an International multi-category  Competition which will be the spearhead of the whole campaign.

The Batik Guild

The Batik Guild is an International non–profit (making) organisation, financed by its members’ subscriptions and run by volunteers. It was founded in 1986 by a group of artists in London, who were students of Noel Dyrenforth. Noel was Chairman from 1987 – 2004. He was made Honorary President of the Batik Guild in 2007. The Batik Guild is presently approaching 200 members – Over 50% of the membership are from Overseas. 

Both amateur and professional artists, teachers and those who simply enjoy batik, work together to promote an understanding of batik, both in its traditional and historical origins and in contemporary, creative work. A Batik Guild Magazine is produced three times a year to encourage an exchange of views and information. The Guild website, www.batikguild.org.uk, provides a wide range of information about batik, exhibitions, workshops and publications. In the last 5 years, the use of other media – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Zoom – have given regular opportunities for the dissemination of members’ batiks, techniques and close contact around the world. 

Exhibitions have been held in many parts of the United Kingdom, including the 2006 – 2007 touring exhibition, funded by a Heritage Lottery Fund grant. Members have represented the Batik Guild at Conferences in Boston, U.S.A.; Warsaw, Poland; Ghent, Belgium; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Saitama, Japan; and Guiyang, Guizhou, China. Many members have exhibited in exhibitions and have both taught and attended workshops in Java, Indonesia; Japan; Canada; U.S.A.; Australia; and several countries throughout Europe. 

The Batik Guild book ‘Batik Transitions – From Classic to Contemporary’ (published in 2006 to accompany the travelling exhibition) has sold over 2000 copies and can be purchased via the website. Members are able to apply for a biennial scholarship award established with the Temenos Academy in memory of Thetis Blacker, to facilitate the study or research of the art of batik. Winners since 2009 have come from the U.K., Ghana and Indonesia. Fundraising events have raised money to support small groups and educational activities in Java. The future activities of the Batik Guild will endeavour to fulfil the original aims to ensure that this vibrant, unique, technically–challenging art will continue to flourish for generations to come. 

An International Batik Guild exhibition was held In 2022 in Wales, UK, to celebrate the 35th Anniversary of the Batik Guild (a year later than planned). In June, 2023, Rudolf Smend celebrated his 50th Anniversary since he founded his gallery – the Smend Galerie  in Cologne, Germany. He invited batik artists who had shown in his gallery before to exhibit one piece of batik. This year, the Batik Guild will be setting off their ‘International Year of Batik, 2024-25’ with an International exhibition at the Naples Botanical Garden in Florida, from May 4th – June 30th, 2024.


What is Batik?

Batik is the ancient art of using wax and dyes to paint images on fabric. A substance called a resist is used to prohibit dyes from penetrating the cloth. Historically, melted wax, though starch, oils, resins and even mud has been used. The art may have been practised more than 2,000 years ago and evidence of this has been discovered in most Asian, Middle Eastern and African countries. It was on the islands of Indonesia that the art was perfected.

A canting (pronounced tjanting) tool is most often used and allows for very precise work. It consists of a small metal reservoir, mounted on a handle, with a spout from which the hot wax flows. Brushes, shaped metal or wood printing blocks called caps (pronounced tjaps) may also be used. To begin the process, a pencil drawing is made on white fabric, and melted wax is applied to the areas that are to remain white. Then, when the wax is cold, the cloth is dyed with a first light-colored dye, either by brush or by dipping the entire cloth into a cold dye bath.

After the cloth has dried, melted wax is applied to the areas that are to remain the dyed color. From there, the next darkest dye is applied, which is, in turn, waxed. This alternating waxing and dyeing is repeated until the desired effect is achieved, the darkest color being last. The hardened wax may crack, leaving a way for dye to absorb into the fabric, giving it a veined look which is indicative of Batik. Incidentally, in Indonesia, cracking is considered a sign of poor workmanship. The wax is then removed by ironing, boiling, or with solvents.